Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Appreciating Diane Disney

Sad news.  Diane Disney, Walt's daughter, died today at the age of 79.  

I had the opportunity to meet Diane in 1984, as a Cal Arts student.  The school had just completed a new student apartment complex, and was having an open house for the trustees.  As a rule, if there was free wine and food to be had, we were there - we being fellow students Tim Hauser, Kevin Lima, and myself.  Tim has the greatest knowledge of all things Disney of anyone I know, and he was quick to point out the presence of the big players - Card Walker, Donn B. Tatum, Roy Disney, and his cousin Diane.

At this point in Disney Studio history, Roy had not yet made his move.  Diane's husband, Ron Miller, was still in charge, and The Black Cauldron was still in production. At the party,  Roy was sort of tucked away, talking to other dignitaries.  But there was Diane, accessible, in middle of the room.

We found our way to the wine, and after a few glasses, built up our nerve to talk to her.  She was Walt Disney's daughter, for crying out loud.  But what would we say?  I mean, she wasn't an animator, so shop talk was out, and that was about all we knew.  We couldn't come up with anything, so I, with buzz on, said, "I'm gonna go talk to her."

I could hear the other guys laughing - I was good for a laugh.  Surely I would make a fool of myself.  I walked right up to Diane Disney, daughter of Walt, and told her I was a third year Character Animation student.  I told her I that for the past two years, I had been awarded full scholarships, courtesy of the Disney Family.  Without those scholarships, I could not afford to go there.  I thanked her for helping my dream come true.

That was the single most mature, heartfelt statement I had ever made up until then.  I was an extremely goofy 21 year old.  But I wanted her to be able to put a face on her generosity, and  there was something about Ms. Disney that made it easy for me to rattle that off as lucidly as I did.  She gave a beautiful smile and said, "That's wonderful.  I'm so glad."  She asked me where I was from, how I was doing in school, and at some point, I discovered the other guys were now surrounding me and working themselves into the conversation.

Diane Disney was so incredibly gracious to us all, she had no idea how much she had made our night.

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